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The River Reporter's 'Transcribe-a-Thon' pledges to preserve Wayne County's oral histories

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HONESDALE, PA — Oral histories are artifacts of the human experience.

In its collection, the Wayne County Historical Society (WCHS) has roughly 100 cassette tapes of oral histories, taken by volunteers in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. WCHS relies on volunteers and a few hardworking employees, making the digitizing and transcribing of these tapes a massive undertaking. That’s why The River Reporter is asking the community to come out for the Historical Society and get the job done.

On Friday October 18 from 4 to 9 p.m. at The Bodhi Tree in Honesdale, volunteers will gather for a marathon Transcribe-a-Thon, signing up in shifts to clean and prepare transcriptions of these oral histories. Event organizers are still seeking volunteers, especially for the later two shifts, and ask anyone interested to sign up here [http://bit.ly/transcribeathon].

“An oral history allows us to listen to the living human and hear is voice, his inflection, his accent, the way that he spoke; it shows his level of education, it shows what he’s excited about, what she was able to do,” said Carol Dunn, executive director of the Wayne County Historical Society. “We really want to preserve those words from the living human who knew Wayne County.”

The interviews on these tapes are with longstanding Wayne County citizens who remember the area as far back as the early 20th and late 19th centuries. Many of the interviewees are no longer with us.

An AI software will do the bulk of the transcribing ahead of time, thanks to the sponsorship of Wayne Memorial Hospital, the Meagher Law, RE/MAX Wayne, The Dime Bank and Dunkin Donuts in Honesdale. All the volunteers have to do is “clean” the transcriptions—make sure that “Honesdale” is not written has “Homesdale,” for example.

There will be free food and drink at the event, information on the historical society, music and fun between shifts. With enough interest, there will be an after party following the event.

“This isn’t about donating money or raising awareness, this is direct community action you can take to immediately have an impact on Wayne County,” said Elizabeth Lepro, the event’s organizer. “Not only will you feel good about your contribution, but you’ll probably learn something.”

Other event sponsors for the night include Art's for Him and Her Too and Platform Industries. The Bodhi Tree has offered the space and provided technical support for the event and The Stourbridge Project has donated the use of its laptops for the evening. Wallenpaupack Life (Wally Life) donated equipment to convert the cassette tapes to digital files.

“All of these local businesses throwing their support behind this project is indicative of a thriving community,” said Mollie Semler, the event’s sponsorship coordinator. “We cannot thank them enough for their support—history will thank them too.”

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